TechChina's Z-21 Helicopter Emerges: A Rival to the AH-64 Apache?

China's Z‑21 Helicopter Emerges: A Rival to the AH‑64 Apache?

Helicopter Z-21 spotted in China
Helicopter Z-21 spotted in China
Images source: © X | @RupprechtDeino

8:58 AM EDT, March 24, 2024

Recently, a photo of China's latest attack helicopter, touted as the counterpart to the American AH-64 Apache, has emerged online. The Z-21, as it is known, was captured flying for the first time.
This marks the debut of the Z-21 combat helicopter's (previously dubbed Z-XX) image in the public eye. It also acts as confirmation of China's efforts to enhance the capabilities of the Z-20 combat helicopter.

Andreas Rupprecht, an expert on Chinese air forces, has verified the photo's authenticity. He believes it accurately depicts the helicopter formerly referred to as Z-XX.

Is it a copy of the U.S. machine?

Defense Express has noted similarities with the AH-64 Apache in the Z-21's design. While the Z-21 remains shrouded in secrecy, what's known is that its first trial flight took place in January 2024. Without weapons installed, it's difficult to predict its armament capacity. Measurement devices have instead been fixed onto its body for now.

Interestingly, the Z-21 not only aims to mirror the Apache in aspects like cabin fairing placement and the underbelly rotary cannon but is also a progression from the older Z-20, itself a derivative of the American Black Hawk. The prototype distinctly features an innovation aimed at minimizing infrared visibility by directing its exhausts upwards.

China intends for the Z-21 to be a formidable platform, capable of bearing a hefty arsenal, akin to the Apache or the Russian Mi-28.

The specifics of the Z-21's powertrain for mass production remain under wraps. Based on unofficial sources, the War Zone reports that it's likely to utilize engines adapted from the smaller Z-20s. These sources anticipate that the helicopter, designed to rival the Apache, will be operational within three years.

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